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12 Things Great Leaders Don’t Do

12 Things Great Leaders Don’t Do

Great leaders are known for their vision, their ability to make tough decisions and inspire their staff. But what does this mean in practice? Here are 12 things great leaders never do.

1. They don’t put things off

A famous example of a leader who procrastinated during the American Civil War was General McClellan. Nothing was quite ready. This cost the nation thousands of lives and Abraham Lincoln had no choice but to sack the General.

A real leader knows when to make decisions and to take appropriate action. They also know that keeping all options open is a sign of weakness.

2. They don’t listen enough.

If a leader is not prepared to listen actively, then there’s something wrong. Many so-called leaders are so confident of their infallibility that they never really listen. They also make a pretence of listening which may result in a premature assessment and poor decisions. The result is they lose their employees’ trust, confidence, and loyalty.

Successful leaders know how to listen with empathy. They are also willing to answer questions, clarify issues, and respond to concerns.

3. They don’t sit back and relax

Many leaders seem to be satisfied with achieving moderate success and take it easy, once certain objectives have been reached. The founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, once said, ‘The most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is to every evening think what can be done better tomorrow.’ The intelligent leader knows that striving for better results and greater success is the key to a successful business.

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4. They don’t know how to communicate

Many managers fail to inspire their colleagues. They lack the skills in communicating the company’s vision, policies and strategies to their employees. The result is that teams work badly.

Great leaders spend some time in organizing what they need to communicate and the best way of doing it clearly. They know that this time is well spent and will pay off handsomely in the long run. They also realize the potential of multi communication platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In to maximize contact.

5. They don’t know how to delegate

When poor leaders do not know the strengths and skills of each team member, they find it practically impossible to delegate.

Proper assessment of each member’s abilities is the key to successful delegation. Staff feel involved and valued.

6. Their values don’t reflect the company’s ethics

All too often, ineffectual leaders do not share the values and company’s ethics wholeheartedly. No surprise to learn that their teams lack inspiration and are satisfied with mediocrity.

The most successful leaders are totally convinced about their company’s values and are committed 100% to following these through in their business relations. There is total transparency in their staff assessments, business dealings and their hiring and firing.

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7.  They don’t view setbacks negatively

‘Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.’- Henry Ford.

Uninspiring leaders are often fearful of obstacles and this may very well delay their decisions and affect their action plans negatively.

Dealing with setbacks and obstacles is no stranger to the successful leader. He steers clear of those colleagues who were cautious and can now say that they knew X would happen because of Y. He will never play the blame game, either with himself or his staff.

The Harvard Business Review recommends that the successful leader refocuses on his/her goals because now is the time to accelerate again after assessing any fallout. They mention Donald Trump who failed not once, but twice in his casino enterprises. That did not daunt him from becoming a leading estate developer and producer.

8. They are not emotionally intelligent

Many business leaders and executives display an astounding ignorance or a lack of awareness of emotional intelligence. They are not even aware of EI and what it involves. They fail to realize the damage done by not being able to control their emotions. They fly off the handle at the slightest provocation and they are socially inept. They shout and criticize people openly and they do not make any effort at all to hide negative and harmful emotions. Staff morale plummets and there is a fearful and threatening atmosphere.

Successful leaders know how to control their emotions and they are calm in a crisis. They are also aware of their staff’s moods and emotions when faced with setbacks and know how to praise and encourage them, whether things go well or badly. This is the atmosphere where motivation will thrive and positive staff relations will soar. Learning how to resolve conflict and improve communication will help any business to flourish. You can only do that by being emotionally intelligent.

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9. They don’t see the value of feedback

Everyone craves praise and recognition after a job which has required effort, thought, dedication, patience, and sweat. Poor leaders tend to be mean with praise but also cannot be bothered to give constructive feedback.

The best leaders know when a person needs help and they will care enough to give the help and encouragement needed for success. If it is done helpfully, it can transform a mediocre employee into a high performing one.

10. They don’t think outside the box

Poor leaders tend to micro manage and oversee every little detail. This stifles creativity in their employees.

Brilliant leaders know how much leeway and responsibility they can give their employees, without ever having to supervise and suffocate. The results will speak for themselves and employees will respect you for the confidence you showed in them.

‘It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.’ – Nelson Mandela.

11. They don’t seek advice

Weak leaders always want to display how much they know and how they are on top of the job. This means, in reality, that they rarely seek the advice of colleagues because they are so intent on maintaining their position of authority.

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Wise leaders know instinctively that their employees can be a source of inspiration, ideas, and even sound advice. They know that they need to learn too.

12. They don’t see the value of excellence

‘Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.’ –Steve Jobs

Simply put, great leaders are dedicated to excellence in everything they do. This can range from innovation, staff relations, communications, goal setting, giving feedback and making tough decisions. The pursuit of excellence is the simplest way to describe great leadership.

Let us know in the comments how you have benefited from working with a great leader.

Featured photo credit: Leadership= Vision/Celestine Chua via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on May 28, 2020

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

1. Digital Savviness

As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

How to Develop This Skill

For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

2. Financial Forecasting

Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

How to Develop This Skill

Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

3. Video Production Skills

The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

How to Develop This Skill

Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

  • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
  • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
  • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

How to Develop This Skill

Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

How to Develop This Skill

Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

6. Honing Pitches to Investors

Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

How to Develop This Skill

Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

How to Develop This Skill

Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

8. Automating to Your Advantage

The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

How to Develop This Skill

Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

9. Managing Millennials

Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

How to Develop This Skill

Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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Offer Constructive Feedback

Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

How to Develop This Skill

Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

As the African proverb goes:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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